Throughout the history of SEO, we've heard various mantras around content. From "Content is King" to the more recent "10X Content," all have had the intent of driving site owners and enterprises to produce the best content ever for online success. "10X Content" in particular has the hefty premise that content producers should strive to create content that is ten times better than the current #1 SERP result for their topic.
This can leave many people scratching their heads and asking, "How do you define 'better'?" It's a nebulous concept, and, frankly, some content producers may look at the examples of 10X Content and be discouraged from even trying, because the target of their content isn't as exciting.
10X Better is a Subjective Measure
I don't think there's anything wrong with striving to come up with better content, but how do you measure "better?" It's heavily dependent upon your perspective. Your social media team may measure content based on how often it's shared, tweeted, re-tweeted, or liked on Facebook and LinkedIn. But 10X Content to your sales team likely means that it produces 10X leads or 10X conversions. To a user, however, really great content provides them with the answer to their question, fulfills their needs, or does whatever it was the user was needing at the time of their query at the search engine 10 times better than the competition does.
And that's where the best and most successful online enterprises focus their efforts: the marriage between getting the results they want (a purchase, a newsletter sign-up, etc.) and being the best at giving the users what they want.
You get to this perfectly-balanced state through ongoing A/B Testing. This is the closest approach that content producers have to being scientific. It involves answering an ongoing series of questions, applying the answer, asking more questions, applying the answer, rinsing and repeating. And the list of questions can be endless:
- Do our product pages perform better when there's a video on the page?
- Do ALL types of products benefit from video content or only certain types of products?
- Do our pages perform better when there is an easy-to-follow set of how-to instructions on the page?
- Do users tend to prefer pages with long-form content?
- How do hi-res photos impact the user experience?
- How does voice impact the user experience? Should we be funny? Scholastic? Should we write for a 4th grade reading level, or do our users prefer industry jargon?
In short, there is no worldwide standard for what "10X Content" is. It is a measure that is unique to your industry and even your specific users. Therefore, it is up to you to continually test the various content you produce to see if you can reach that happy middle ground of users getting what they want and your business getting what it wants.
The Definition of Better Varies Culturally
Even after you have A/B tested your way into the perfect piece of content, is your work done? Not if you're a global enterprise. What works well in the United States of America may not work well in Arabic countries or in Japan or China. Simply translating what you've written on your US pages won't necessarily result in a better experience for your international audience.
In the case of Arabic sites, you might be able to simply flip your site design horizontally and format it to accommodate a right-to-left reading style in Arabic countries, such as this example from the University of Dammam.
But when you deal with the Japanese market, for example, you need to facilitate a completely different user experience. The simplicity and uncluttered approach that many U.S-based sites take may not work in Japan, where sites tend to overwhelm the senses and use a density of information unparalleled in the West.
For example, look at the different ways Rakuten displays their content for Japanese users and U.S. users.
As you can see in the Japanese example, prices and discounts need to be boldly stated, whereas the English page has virtually no mention of prices or discounts. Navigation is also more detailed on the Japanese version. Categories dominate the navigation on the English version.
Global teams will need to be especially cognizant of each market's nuances. What works for one country may not work for another.
The 10X Movement Sets Unreasonable Expectations for Mundane Industries
I always feel bad for content producers in industries that aren't, shall we say, exciting. An urn manufacturer probably wouldn't get as great a response from an unboxing video as a computer manufacturer does. And the guy that manufactures nuts and bolts probably can't produce how-to content that rivals the recipe section on Serious Eats. When Rand Fishkin talks about 10X Content, I can visualize the eye-rolls coming from these folks. I can just hear them saying, "Yeah, but Rand, you're not writing content for the world's largest supplier of industrial machine lubricant."
But the fact is that the number of mundane (but absolutely necessary) industries far exceeds the number of super exciting industries. The world needs industrial machine lubricant, nuts and bolts, and hydraulic valves way more than it needs upscale watches, toys, and yachts. So, what is a content producer to do when they're tasked with creating content that wows around a product or service that doesn't wow?
Choose the Right Format for Your Message
Certainly the written word is far more valuable from an SEO perspective, but what other methods are appropriate for an industry? The fact is that your customers consume content in a way that is appropriate for them. Publishing on Instagram and Snapchat, may not work for you if your target audience is made up of master plumbers, a job function where the average age is 58. But creating how-to videos and providing concise instructions and formatted for Instant Answer consumption could be your best bet.
Choose the Right Voice for Your Message
Just because humor works for informational industries and snack products doesn't meant that you should use it. In fact, for a cancer treatment center or an organization providing hospice care, humor is downright inappropriate. Put yourself in the mindset of a person who is looking for your product and service, and then meet them in both content and tone that you feel would be appropriate.
Let Your Customers Speak for You
Regardless of industry, potential clients want to hear about your current clients' experiences. User-generated content is a great way to show off your great product and service. Allow and encourage your customers to post photos, videos and written reviews of your products and services. This will build your content footprint, expand your relevance for long-tail searches, and solidify your reputation online.
In short, if your content brings the needs of the user together with the business's objectives, what does it matter if it's not flashy or revolutionary? Your job is to meet the needs of the consumer and prove your value to company shareholders, not win a popularity contest.
Don't get me wrong. I believe that the spirit of the 10X Content movement is spot on. In the past, SEOs focused on producing more and more content. (Does anyone remember being told that you needed to produce 3 to 4 blog posts per week minimum?) Rather than focusing your efforts on creating the most content in your industry, 10X Content encourages you to create the best content possible. As we've seen, "best" is not a stale measurement. It is a moving target that is unique to each industry, each type of customer, each type of product or service, and even each point in time.
Rather than being discouraged by the 10X Content movement, use it to liberate your content strategy and meet your clients right where they are.
Featured Image courtesy of Drew Coffman and Flickr.